Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns
Two key Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday grilled TikTok’s parent company over data privacy concerns and its ties to China.
In the letter to ByteDance, ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the ranking member of the panel’s consumer protection subcommittee, pressed the Chinese-based company about potential violations of federal law governing safeguards for children online and data sharing with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
ByteDance and TikTok agreed to settle charges that one of its predecessors, Musical.ly, violated the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Developers of apps geared toward children cannot collect personally identifiable information on users under the age of 13 without consent from parents or legal guardians.
As part of that settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, ByteDance paid a $5.7 million fee and agreed to obtain parental permission before collecting personal information on TikTok and to delete any information about users identified as under 13 on the short-form video platform.
ByteDance purchased Musical.ly in 2017 and merged it with TikTok, which it already owned.
However, concerns remain about data privacy for children.
Previous concerns: Walden and McMorris Rodgers pointed to a complaint by 20 children’s and consumer advocacy groups filed with the FTC alleging that TikTok violated the privacy commitments made in the settlement.
The lawmaker’s letter also brings up concerns that TikTok user data could be obtained by the CCP.
Much of that concern is tied to a 2017 Chinese law that requires Chinese companies to comply with data requests for state intelligence work.
While ByteDance is headquartered and operates out of Beijing, the company claims it is incorporated in the Cayman Islands.
“While we think the concerns are unfounded, we understand them and are continuing to further strengthen our safeguards while increasing our dialogue with lawmakers to help explain our policies,” TikTok said in a statement to The Hill.